HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi women's volleyball team's new home is about to move from blueprint to reality.
"We recently have broken ground or are (about to be) breaking ground on our new, indoor volleyball facility," USM athletic director Jon Gilbert said Thursday afternoon. "We have partnered with a local contractor and they have fenced off the property and are doing things, both on-site and behind the scenes, to get the project moving."
A large swath of the northwest portion of the Payne Center parking lot that was roped off two weeks ago is now cordoned off by chain-link fence. A Finlo Construction Company, Inc., trailer appeared near the western entrance of the lot earlier this week and groundbreaking for the 28,000-square-foot, multi-use Wellness Center is imminent.
The center will serve as the practice/playing home of Lady Eagles volleyball, including locker rooms and training and meeting rooms. In partnership with the non-profit Mississippi Community Education Center, the facility also will be converted for use for university-affiliated and community classes, meetings, camps, seminars and other events.
"It's a great project, not only for athletics, but it's a really good project for the university and a really good project for the community," Gilbert said. "We could get more than 1,000 if we put chairs on the floor, so it will be a really good venue for multiple events. I look at it as facility that the community will use significantly."
Gilbert said the university was creative in raising funds for the construction of the $6 million facility. The partnership with MCEC provided some public funding, with the remainder of the cost covered by about two dozen private donors.
USM also received "gift-in-kind" donations of material and labor from businesses for the project, which is expected to finish in July 2019.
Gilbert said the new venue also will relieve the scheduling burden at Reed Green Coliseum, which serves as the home base for volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball.
"This will not only benefit our volleyball program, but our basketball programs with the shared space that is Reed Green," Gilbert said.
The construction will affect about 80 parking spaces at the Payne Center lot during construction. Once completed, about 60 parking spaces will be lost at the lot that also provided public parking for USM basketball and baseball events as well as student parking during the academic year.
Gilbert said none of the trees along West Fourth Street or between the lot and Green Coliseum would be lost because of the new center.